Wednesday, December 31, 2008

10 Things on New Year's

"This was the world - a poor thing, but my own ..." (A. Huxley - The Doors of Perception)

I don't think I have ever lived through a year that's been more like Life as 2008 has been. All the ups and downs of life, the losses and the gains, the tears of absolute bliss and the ones of utter despair have passed over me and have seasoned and reshaped me like no other year has. It's been a long and also a short year, and in truthfulness, it's been as long as (almost) any other year's been. As always, I am grateful for all of it, and just like I said in the beginning of this year : as the willow stands in the field: I bend, but am not down yet!

Keeping in mind that life is made of bitter and sweet, and we can't have one without the other, here are ten things I'll remember about 2008 - the order is completely aleatory:

Five things I could not have done without:

1.0 My health, as much as I have it - as long as I have 4 members that work, a curious mind, a set of eyes, and ears, the ability to move about and work, a heart to feel with and a brain to process, everything else is just a task. Thank God for this one! Big time!!
2.0 My family and friends, far and near - their love, patience and time for me is priceless, year, after year, after year. Thank you all for being there, and for allowing me to give myself to you, in whatever shape, form, or quantity I can. It's an honor!
3.0 The whole Patrick experience: holding him in my arms for the first time, hearing him breathe in my ear, keeping him asleep for hours on my chest; seeing my sister being a mommy, seeing my mom's face light up with laughter when she sees him; having him in my house, full of curiosity and life - all of it. I live through him and for him; through his big smiles and his love of life!

Montreal - July 2008

4.0 Taking my aunt around the US - as much as I could. Just showing her around, and successfully finding our way through The Blueridge Parkway and Washington, DC and VA, and ... The bond, and the memories we built, the lessons we've learned about each other, our heritage. Thank you, Rodi!
5.0 Seeing America maturing politically. Finally! I am glad they reached this stage in my lifetime. And grateful.

Five things I could have done without:

1.0 So many, too many friends, close and not so much, that have lost their livelihood; their worry and even despair about what to put on the table tomorrow and how to pay for the roof over their head. Too many people, too close to "home" have experienced that this year. My heart goes out to them.
2.0 Giving mom and dad the news that my sister's in labor, more then 2 months before the due date. The wait, and the nervousness about Patrick's hospital stay, while he was in NICU.
3.0 Saying good bye to friends who have moved far and away, because job and economy situations intervened. I'll miss you dearly!
4.0 All the bad health news about family members, close friends, or pets: my sister's early labor, my mom's (unsuccessful) leg surgery, my friend's third hernia surgery, my dad's multiple injuries, and heart issues, my friends who lost parents, or best friends, or pets to sickness, and everyone out there that I know who have to deal with pain, every day. My prayers are out to you, prayers for strength and much health in the new year! If there is no health, there is no room for any other joy!
5.0 Losing my best friend, Jeff , to cancer. He has left a void so huge I have not yet found ways to fill it. I miss him every day, every hour, and I am still wishing him strength and happiness, and freedom, wherever he finds himself nowadays! I did not want to watch The Phillies win The Series without him! That one - I could have done without! But I can only hope that was one last irony he's given me - in his inimitable style of self-mockery that he loved!

Alexandria, VA - Thanks, Walter!

And as I am sitting down to have my last quiet and lonely supper of 2008, I leave you with a thought from Huxley that rang true to me. May each of us be strong, and healthy, and happy in the new year, and thus help the world be a better place. But it starts with each one of us.

" We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature, every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies - all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes. "

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

When “Dad” Moved Out

Some people are lucky enough to grow up with a full set of parents. Some of us happen to be double blessed, and find another set of adoptive parents along the way of life. Like I found a second “dad”. Almost. Let me explain.

My former boss and I met over eight years ago when he gave me my first job at The Paper, as a sales assistant. Before the interview and until I got my job, he would call me at odd times, and the interviews were a bit out of the ordinary. He was an original, for sure, even before knowing me that well. There was a familiarity there that I didn’t quite grasp, but it became evident over time. We both have felt like “family” from the beginning, in a way. We both shared an honesty and openness that I have yet to find in most people.

After the first six months on my first job, he learned pretty fast that I learn faster than most, and I get bored easily. So, just like my real dad who threw me and my sister in a slew of extra-school activities to keep us busy and out of trouble, my boss had a mission to find me “stuff to do” so I won’t get bored, or God forbid leave! He constantly gave me one or two or several channels for my learning and my curiosity to go to. I am sure he was doing most of this for the benefit of the company as well, as I was (and still am) very cheap labor, and I would never say “no” to any task!

But pushed me he did. He drove me into marketing, he sent me to be a “leveraging conflict” trainer, he dragged me kicking and screaming into the IT world, and into the Project Management one, and he dropped me like a bag of potatoes into the United Way Campaign, to be not just a team member, but the chair. One thing he never convinced me to do was sales. Just like dad never sold me on the “medical school” idea, either.

Every time he did this, I was just like a kid: “No! No way I’ll do this!”. And he was just like my dad: “No way. You’ll do it. Now! Faster! Stop whining and get it DONE!”. Just like I do with my real dad, I hated him for pushing me, I ground the teeth and made faces behind his back, I lost sleep over how I am going to disappoint him, and I did it anyway to the best of my abilities. In the end, I thanked him when I realized he saw in me what I could not, and he made me a success by pushing me and ignoring my fight-backs.

The older I get, the more I don’t mind hearing the “I told you so”’s, either … And I am so grateful he’s dragged me through this winding career that I’ve had for eight years now.

Just like I would rather be caught killing puppies than upset or disappoint my dad, I did what my boss wanted me to because I would have been mortified if I ever disappointed him! I went to bed happy, and I thought I looked better in the mirror every time I’d do something and I’d get a “You’re the best!” from him!

Just like I seldom tell my dad that he’s one of my best friends, and I love him, I never told my boss these. But somehow I know he knows it. I feel like he’s helped me grow old and up in these 8 years. You’ve learned above what I have been through, professionally, thanks to him: from the sales assistant of a 3 sales people team in the Online Department to Jack-of-all-trades-known-to-all-in-the-company in IT, it’s been a long, painful, and also rewarding journey.

But our closeness and his caring and paternal interest in me has not stopped at the professional level, and now, that he’s retired, I am going to miss him more because he’s been my personal “double dad”, too: he’s helped me grow up and old, and gray through my separation and divorce, through home selling and home buying, through deaths, and births of my loved ones, through car sales, and car rentals, through the good years of dating and the hell years of dating; he’s listened to more of my blabbing about the un-necessary-ness of men, and about my frustration with my family, my friends, my co-workers, and life in general than my own mother has!

I’ve asked his opinion on everything, from where I should buy my plane tickets to Europe, to how far in advance I should buy ham for Christmas, or where you can get really good discounts on wine. Just like I do with dad for the ‘Romanian side’ of my life, I have learned to check with my boss before I make any major decisions here, in The States.

He’s always given me his best answer and his honest opinion. I knew exactly how he felt about my boyfriends, and my family, about my cats, and about the way I clean my house before I go on vacation. We disagreed on things, just like parents and kids do: anything from “don’t date that loser”, as I am stubbornly holding on to a failed relationship, to “God is a Woman”, as he stubbornly tells me over and over. I hated some of his decisions and he knew it, I hated him for not liking some of my personal choices, too. But in the end, what was great between us prevailed – the honesty and truthfulness of our bond - and that was what kept me going back! I knew he cared enough to give me a real answer, not some bogus “make me feel better” piece of BS just to get rid of me. And with this trust, the bonding grew! One can only be so lucky to find in their jobs what I found in this one person.

I called them “life questions”, as I was closing the door of his office for our “private chats”: “Hey, you know a good mechanic?” – he was replying: “You got a life question? Here’s the answer: get one!”- before I even opened my mouth.

And so, now, that he’s retired and no longer in this office, I feel like I have lost not only my boss, but a good and dear friend, and my surrogate “dad” as well. I am not planning to have any kids of my own, but this feels as close to an empty nest feeling as I’ll ever come, I guess. With “dad” moved out, I have the same feeling kids have when they’re dumped in the school bus for the first time, or to college, 5 states away. It’s this hallow, lonely feeling I am not sure how to replace or remedy! Where to turn to? How do I do this or that? I know, I need to stop the self pity and move on, and grow up – which I’ll do, slowly, I am sure. Just right now, it’s a separation and it hurts like all separations do!

Sure, he told me I can call him, but he deserves his rest and his fun! After 100 years of working (sorry, I had to do this!!), he deserves just to play golf! Plus, he never asked for any kids to take care of, so my uncertainty and tribulations should not be his burden! And I need to listen to him one last time, and just “get a life” of my own: just like birds eventually learn how to fly, I need to start using the wings he’s been mending for me for eight years – and continue to make him proud. I hope.

I can only hope I meant to him as a “surrogate daughter” as much as he meant to me as a “surrogate father”, and that time and distance will not sever what we worked so hard to build. Somehow, I just guess (or maybe it’s just hope?!) that he’ll still be there, watchful and critical, as ever, wagging his finger and telling me “ I told you so”, also encouraging and loving, even if our physical time is not there anymore. I cannot wait to continue our relationship, now, in a new setting, hopefully! I know I’ll do my part to keep it going.

And whatever you’ll tell me, “dad”, I still think God is not you, but He is, however, a Man! Thank you, again, for giving me a home, support and a good scolding when I needed it, and see you at lunch, soon! Prepare your preaching, ‘cause I am sure there will be something to preach about. Cannot wait!

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Rollercoaster is Screeching …

… or at least I hope so.

I guess it’s evident to most of you out there that “something” happened to me since the blog has not been updated in over a month. I apologize to all my readers for the apparent neglect. I hope it won’t happen often. The “something” that happened was, of course, just life, and that’s a lame excuse. Because life “happens” every day!

There is no way I can update you on everything that’s been happening, really, bit by bit, but I’ll try to just brief it as much as I can.

In a nutshell …

December is one of the busiest months for The Jaycees, so I was busy at the beginning of the month with The Parade and other charity projects we had. Then, like everyone else, I got busy preparing for The Holidays. Gifts to buy for all relatives and friends spread all over the world, first, because those have to be mailed early to make it there for Santa Claus time. Some of the gifts were made, so that took a while, too.

Then I starting to shop for folks here. This year, I did little shopping online. I figured I had a better chance at a good deal, and a great discount in a brick-and-mortar place. Did I?! Hope so – with no comparison, really, and no time to make one, it’s hard to tell.

Then, the parties started. The Christmas ones, that is. Then, the Jaycee end-of-the-year awards party. I got an award, which is the first of my life; and not too bad, for my first year in the organization. I was so humbled and grateful.

My boss retired, and I was busy putting together his farewell events: a party, a gift from the team, a framed memo page from his former colleagues, from all other departments; busy writing, editing, hunting for pictures and making sure all the fun, embarrassing bits stand out.

Then, Christmas week came. And getting ready for my Christmas party. Clean the house, and cook, and decorate, and feed a crowd, and wrap more presents, and … you get the picture …

Work, and on-call, and the routine life I usually have went on somewhere in there, between the errands, and the parties, and the charities, and the present giving, and the sharing myself with the world.

Every day, I was praying for the rollercoaster to start slowing down, breaking even, so I can come to a halt. Today is the first day, when I had time to just stare at my cats asleep. And feel the peace and ‘relaxiness’ they impart. Today, I could breathe and be aware of the breathing alone. And hence, an update.

But all in all, other than the fact that I’ve neglected you all, I feel like I’ve touched every one of you (or most of you that I have seen or spoken with this month) by just being out there, and connecting in other ways … It’s been one of the busiest Christmases, and not one of the richest for most of us, but I feel fulfilled, and happy. And thankful.

And now that the ride has finally been screeching towards a finish line, I can look back and contemplate the speed, the views from up top, and even the upside-down loops I have been through! It’s been all worth it.

Thanks, all, for being there, and giving me a place to be and reasons to be busy this year and especially this Christmas! Thanks for the rollercoaster! I am dizzy. But refreshed!